Knife Laws in Iowa

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Iowa has relaxed and permissive knife laws. However, as you go through these laws, they can become quite confusing due to the big legal words used to describe them. Here is everything you need to know about knife laws in Iowa.

What knives are legal to own in Iowa?

Readlyn, Iowa
Readlyn, Iowa

Bali knives are perfectly legal in Iowa. The same with switchblades/automatic knives and bowie knives.  Furthermore, stilettos, daggers, and dirks are allowed, including disguised knives – lipstick, cane, or belt knives.

What knives are illegal to own in Iowa?

There is only one category of knives that Iowa has banned – ballistic knives, just like most states.

What are the limits on carry?

When it comes to carrying knives outside your house, rules are a bit confusing. There are a bunch of restrictions in place. Normally, you can open carry any knife you want, as long as it is not a ballistic knife.

Concealed Carry

There are some limitations when it comes to concealed carry. For example, you cannot carry switchblades and other automatic knives, stilettos, daggers, bali knives, and disguised knives concealed. Also, you are not allowed to conceal carry knives with blades longer than five inches, regardless of their purpose.

All of the above are considered as dangerous weapons. You may conceal carry a “dangerous weapon” with a valid license.

Restrictions on Carry in Specific Locations / Circumstances

You can openly carry legal knives in Iowa, but schools have restrictions. Schools are considered to be weapon-free zones, and knives are considered weapons. Courtrooms and areas for judicial purposes are also weapon-free zones.

Restrictions on Sale or Transfer

There are no restrictions on the sale or transfer of knives. However, since ballistic knives are illegal in Iowa, they cannot be manufactured, sold, given, or transferred.

Is there a statewide pre-emption?

There is no statewide pre-emption in Iowa.

Major Cities in Iowa with Knife Ordinances


City, StateLaw Title/ Chapter/ SectionConcealed Carry LegalMax Size RestrictionShort description from the law
Cedar Rapids, IA63.07Yes3"or knife having a blade of three inches or longer in length.
Council Bluffs, IA8.75.010Yes3"or any knife having a blade of three inches or longer
Des Moines, IA70-77.No person shall carry whether concealed or not, any knife on primary or secondary school property within the city


There are a few exceptions regarding concealed carry for those who have a permit – such things are difficult to obtain, though.

Summary of Knife Laws in Iowa

Knife laws in Iowa are easy to understand. You can own any knife you want, as long as it is not a ballistic knife. Likewise, you can open carry any knife you want unless it is a ballistic knife. Many knives are banned from concealed carry, though. Remember that you cannot conceal carry knives with blades longer than five inches either. Any dangerous weapon cannot be carried concealed.